Sardella cocked her head sideways. “Ahh. You are part of this crew?”
I dithered, not quite sure how to answer that. Captain kept saying I was part of the group of rescues, but I was working on the ship, unlike the rest of them. “Sort of.” She didn’t move and kept staring at me, so I kept talking. “I was on the station where the crew found everyone. But I can be helpful to the crew, so Captain lets me help out.”
“You were there?” Her voice dropped even deeper on the last word, and her hands fluttered along her sides which curved outward from her armpits down to her hips—or where her hips would be if she were human. I couldn’t quite tell, since she was wearing a swath of cloth that was wrapped around her body under her armpits and then tied around her neck.
“Oh.” She blinked slowly. “I was not there long. But….”
“Any time was too long,” I finished for her.
The glow in her eyes intensified. “You are well, after being in their hands?”
Saying yes would be a life. Nodding would be a silent life. I shrugged. “As well as I can be. I talk to Lakshou. He helps me meditate and focus on the good. I can’t forget what I went through, but I can learn to deal with it, he says.” Here was an in for me to talk to her about that guy who came to my door once.
“There was a crew member who wanted to help introduce me to everyone right after we were freed, but I wasn’t ready. I think he does stuff with you all. Ss’m… something. Do you know him?”
“Ss’merit. Yes, he has been assisting the group with acclimating to the ship.”
“I didn’t see him down on the surface.”
“No. I believe he stayed on the ship with those of us who could not go down to the surface.”
Not everyone went down to the planet? That was news to me. I thought everyone had gone down. I had the feeling that Captain and the rest thought they had all gone down on the shuttles as well. “Oh. The planet was beautiful, but those things that attacked that being who died were scary.”
“As I couldn’t risk exposing my get to anything, I did not visit the planet, so I did not see it.” Sardella blinked, throwing sudden shadows in the corner of the room where we were talking when her eyes were shuttered by her thick lids. She licked her thin lips with a speckled tongue as she rubbed her hands along her sides.
“You know, your name feels familiar. I think Ss’merit was asking about you. He was concerned that you were being kept away from the rest of us.”
A chill swept over me. He’d been talking about me? Did he know… things? Like about what the Brox doctors had done to me and put in my brain? How I was different? The tests? The missions? Did he tell the others?
“What did he say?” I asked in a rush.
Sardella opened her eyes, looking into mine. “He asked if any of us remembered you from before. If we had seen you on the station when we were all being held captive or since then on this ship.”
I swallowed hard. “And?”
“Well, I had not. And I did not hear anyone else speak of you.”
“Do you guys talk together a lot? Like… about the stuff that happened to you?”
“If we wish. We have times set aside to meet here to speak to others. Ss’merit says it is best to speak with those who have gone through what you have been through because only they have true empathy and understanding.”
It seemed strange. The doctors had always treated me as if I wasn’t a being at all, just a thing for them to poke, prod, test, and torment for their results. Reliving it, processing the emotions I’d felt then and still continued to feel when the dreams and flashbacks hit me, was intense. I couldn’t imagine sharing it with a large group of people, all their eyes on me, staring and judging and then maybe even talking about what I’d said later. I shuddered.
“You are suffering from the temperature in here?” she asked.
“What? No.” But I was there to fix it. “But I should probably change the sensor so that no one else is. It was nice to finally speak with you.”
She inclined her head again. “And with you.” She turned and gliding away. I expected that large head to overbalance her or make her wobbly, but she moved smoothly and gracefully through the sparse crowd of beings.
Would she go tell Ss’merit that she’d talked to me? What about the others I’d exchanged casual comments with? Were they reporting to him like I was reporting to Captain? More stress added on to what I was already feeling. I’d worried about what to say but it was even worse thinking that others were watching me that closely.
My skin crawled, and I shuddered again. I activated the lifts attached to the work foot coverings and shot toward the ceiling. Changing the sensor didn’t take me very long. I told Priella I needed to take the rest of the shift off, and she patted my arm and let me go.
If another crew member tried that, she’d demand to know and make them work if they didn’t have a good excuse, but she still treated me gently. I was grateful in that moment as I escaped into the silence of my small quarters.
I could relax there with no one watching me or trying to overhear my conversations. Even though I’d looked straight at Sardella during our conversation, I’d seen that Trepharo linger nearby. And I’d seen him before.